Auto Industry's Mileage Plan Out Of Gas

House committee rejects auto industry-backed proposal to create 'average renewable fuel efficiency standards' for new vehicles running on gasoline/ethanol blends.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A House committee on Thursday rejected an auto industry-backed plan to raise gas mileage standards for new vehicles.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wanted to increase the requirements for any vehicle that uses renewable fuels. The measure was put together after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled her support for a Senate plan passed last week to increase standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

The committee approved energy legislation that would improve energy efficiency of buildings and home appliances, modernize the electric grid and promote renewable fuels. The measure does not address mileage standards because committee Democrats want to deal with the issue later this year.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the committee's top Republican, said the issue might be decided by Congress before then, circumventing the committee.

The committee chairman, Rep. John Dingell, a longtime supporter of the auto industry, said the time is not right for Barton's proposal. Promising a ''grand, good, bare-knuckled fight,'' Dingell, D-Mich., reaffirmed his plans to consider it in the fall when his committee tackles global warming legislation.

The committee defeated the Republican proposal on a 31-26 vote along party lines. The plan was supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represent General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and others.

The Bush administration has called for reforms to the system and supports a 4 percent annual increase in the standards. In a letter to Pelosi, three Cabinet secretaries urged the House to address it in the July energy package ''instead of considering them at a later date.''

Barton's proposal would have created ''average renewable fuel efficiency standards'' for vehicles and was devised to apply to any vehicle because ethanol is used as a blending agent in gasoline. Under his plan, passenger cars would need to meet a fleet-wide average of 35 mpg and trucks would need to hit a level of 27.5 mpg by the year 2022.

Each automaker's fleet of passenger cars is required to get an average of 27.5 mpg. Sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans must get an average of 22.2 mpg, for a combined average of about 25 mpg.

Congress has not upgraded the standards since the mid-1970s. The fleet of passenger cars is required to get an average of 27.5 mpg, while SUVs, pickup trucks and vans must get an average of 22.2 mpg.


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